Are We Still Digitally Divided? Analysis of Uses of the Internet Across Residence In the United States

Open Access
Augst, Tyler Jonathan
Graduate Program:
Rural Sociology
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
October 12, 2015
Committee Members:
  • Diane Krantz Mclaughlin, Thesis Advisor
  • Rural
  • Internet
  • Digital Divide
  • Internet Use
  • Pew Research
Previous research has shown that the spread and use of information communication technologies (ICTs) and infrastructure have been unequally distributed, both socially and geographically. With the Internet becoming more central to daily life and participation in the world, these inequalities of the information age may have significant impacts on individuals and societies. This study is an analysis of secondary data collected from a nationally representative survey by Pew Research Center completed in October 2013. The survey asked respondents about their online photo and video sharing behaviors as well as a variety of individual characteristics. This study builds on previous digital divides literature that argues for re-conceptualizing those divides in more nuanced ways than traditional access/non-access or use/non-use of the Internet as well as literature on the differences between online content consumers and content creators. The existence of a traditionally conceptualized (access/non-access) digital divide between rural, suburban, and urban areas is examined, while controlling for other socio-demographic characteristics previously shown to be associated with digital divides (race, ethnicity, gender, age, education, and income). The digital divide in specific uses of the internet also was examined. Analyses were conducted to test for the predictive power of residence in explaining individuals’ photo/video sharing and posting behaviors online. This analysis is accomplished using multivariate logistic regression. Results vary depending on the type of content and if the shared content is original or was created by someone else. While residence was not a statistically significant predictor of internet use, it was significant in models predicting specific types of internet activities. Some relationships between demographic traits and online behaviors may be mediated by the types of devices used to access the internet, such as smartphone technology.